Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, has lived in the United States since 1939, and was educated in the public school system of New York City. She was graduated from Hunter College and did graduate work at Queens College, also a branch of the City University of New York. Espaillat taught high school English in New York City for several years, and writes poetry and prose both in English and in her native Spanish. Her poems, essays, narratives and translations have appeared in numerous magazines, on many websites, and in some fifty anthologies.
Espaillat has published eleven collections of her work: Lapsing to Grace (Bennett & Kitchel, 1992); Where Horizons Go (Truman State University Press, 1998), which won the 1998 T. S. Eliot Prize; Rehearsing Absence (University of Evansville Press, 2001), which won the 2001 Richard Wilbur Award; "Mundo y Palabra/The World and the Word" (Oyster River Press, 2001), a bilingual chapbook that is part of a series titled Walking to Windward: 21 New England Poets; a chapbook in the Pudding House invitational series, titled "Rhina P. Espaillat: Greatest Hits, 1942 - 2001" (Pudding House Press, 2003); The Shadow I Dress In (David Robert Books, 2004), winner of the 2003 Stanzas Prize; a chapbook titled "The Story-teller's Hour" (Scienter Press, 2004); Playing at Stillness (Truman State University Press, 2005); a bilingual collection of poems and essays titled Agua de dos rios, published under the auspieces of the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Culture (Editora Buho, 2006); a bilingual collection of short stories titled El olor de la memoria/The Scent of Memory (CEDIBIL, 2007); and a poetry collection titled Her Place in These Designs (Truman State University Press, 2008).
Her additional awards include the Sparrow Sonnet Prize; three yearly prizes from the Poetry Society of America; the Der-Hovanessian Translation Prize, the Barbara Bradley Award and the May Sarton Award from the New England Poetry Club; the Oberon Prize; the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award sponsored by The Formalist (twice); the Tree at My Window Award from the Robert Frost Foundation (specifically for her Spanish translations of Robert Frost, and her English translations of Saint John of the Cross and the Dominican poet Cesar Sanchez Beras); the Dominican Republic's Salome Ure.